The woman in the pew next to me

My supervisor left a sweet note in my box the other day:
    Heidi,
      I saw this and thought of you. 🙂 

(A generally good way to make someone’s day is to leave a note like this!) Attached to the note was a small magazine with a post-it note marking one tiny article that ran down the side of a page.

The article was entitled “The Women in the Pew Next to Me.”

I didn’t even get a chance to read the article before my mind was working over time.

How often do we notice what is happening in the world of the woman sitting next to us on Sundays? 

Who knows if her marriage is happy?

Who knows if her heart is breaking over the decisions of one of her children?

Who knows if she’s losing her house?

Who knows if she’s waiting for a diagnosis from a doctor?

Who knows if she’s working two jobs?

Who knows if if she grew up losing her self-worth slowly to sexual abuse?

Who knows if anyone ever told her she’s beautiful?

Who knows if anyone told her God loves her despite her past, despite her present?

Who knows if she’s exhausted…chasing little people, slogging through laundry, sacrificing dinners out for family time in?

Who knows if someone’s words cut deep into her heart?

Who knows if she feels insignificant- searching for a friend who will listen and laugh, cry and hug?

Who knows if she lost one of her children to heaven in the early stages of her pregnancy?

Who knows if she struggles to control her weight, her beauty, her emotions?

Who knows if she still cries silent tears from the abortion so many years before, or just days ago?

Who knows if she struggles to care for a child whose needs seem more than she could ever fill?

Who knows…


At the risk of sounding too law oriented- have we taken the time to notice, to care, to ask about the tears, real or silent rolling down her face?

This, my friends, is the church. This pew is where Christ meets us in the form of people who love us, hold us up when we have no strength, and laugh with us in our deepest joys. 

What if that person is your pastor’s wife? What if one person asked her out to coffee or invited her over for a moment of friendship? What if we included one another in our lives to the degree that we open in our hearts and let Christ do His great big work of Love, and Forgiveness, and Compassion, and Kindness through those of us sitting in the pew together. 

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Ephesians 4:32

*The original article given to me by my supervisor was in Vol. 7, Issue 1 of Touchpoints (2011), put out by the Columbus Coalition Against Domestic Violence. and written by Poppy O’Guin Steele.

The trouble with gossip

There is a dessert served in Ohio named the “sinfully delicious dessert.”
I promise you, it is really delicious.
It has crescent rolls involved, cream cheese, butter, cinnamon and sugar…need I say more. The name always took me aback, though. It always left me theologically contemplating while eating said dessert.
Is it so fattening as to become sinful?
Should I really eat something and enjoy it titled sinful?
Why does its deliciousness exceed goodness so much that we deem it “sinful?”
Tell me I’m not the only one who overthinks these things. Obviously, I eventually give up contemplation and dig into my dessert and enjoy the conversation around me.
           
On the same note, one of my favorite nail polish brands is called Sinful Colors. I really like it, it lasts longer than regular store polish, it does have great color options available, but sinful? I don’t get it. What makes it sinful?
Our culture is simply ok with sin. It’s normalized and even in the church we can become numb to the reality that sin is destructive and pervasive. It eats away not only at specific parts of our lives, but our hearts, and the space made by the Spirit for God to reside.
           
I think gossip is like my “sinfully delicious dessert” or my “sinful colors” nail polish. It’s the pretty sin. It’s just so stinking tempting. It makes me feel a little better. It may even bring me “friends” for a moment, willing to swap stories and share heartaches caused by others. I want people to desperately understand my struggle, but I need to be on guard that it doesn’t cause me to sin. Gossip is so tempting in the pastor’s wife world because we feel like we can’t be heard. Sometimes we just want to scream, “Is anyone listening? Did anyone notice I’m here?” and there are people who have wronged us. Most of us have had some kind of hurtful experience in the church, big or small.
           
Ephesians 5:13 speaks to revealing sin for what it is. Sin, brought before God – words spoken in the dark like, “God this is so hard for me. This person really hurt me. I’m angry, I’m sad. I’m just so tired…” is now in the light. Exposed, it has no place in my heart, no power over my life. In fact, this verse tells us that the sin exposed is now a light itself, pointing others to mercy and grace. God promises to use our very struggle and turn it into something better.
           
Let’s paint with some new nail polish – “Colors of Amazing Grace”.  😉
May our lives and our speech be coated by Him. May my pretty little toes point to the change of Christ in me instead of being sinfully delicious in this world with enough sin already.
painting nails with our friends in Haiti